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LGBT Students Work to Ensure Safe and Supportive Schools for all Students

January 19, 2017 - 4:15pm

Yesterday, myself and four other LGBTQ Activists from GLSEN had the honor of sitting down with US Secretary of Education, Dr. John King, in his second to last day in office. Amid a changing administration, the Secretary offered his words of advice, and listened to our experiences as LGBTQ students as well as our hopes for inclusivity in the future of education.  I think all of us, both visitors from GLSEN and the staff at the Department of Education, can agree that we all walked away with valuable information, useful connections, and an even stronger motivation to fight for student’s rights in schools.

Much of our conversation with the Secretary consisted of talking about our experiences in schools and how the federal government can further support LGBTQ students. We discussed issues like discriminatory bathroom policies, discrimination and bullying in schools, LGBTQ inclusive curriculum, and mutual respect among teachers, administrators, and our peers. As students, we proposed new ideas to help make schools more inclusive: e.g. class rosters with student’s preferred names and pronouns, accessible gender neutral bathrooms, and school bullying policies that specifically mention LGBTQ identities. We also talked about various steps the Department of Education has taken in the last few years; how they have improved school climates, and ways that there’s still room for growth.

At one point in the meeting, Secretary King asked us what an ideal school would look like to us, concerning LGBTQ issues. Among the five of us, we came to the agreement that our perfect school would be one where we are simply treated as equal. However, the reality is that we have a long way to go. This includes having curriculum that represents all identities, because when students feel they can see themselves in their learning, they subsequently feel safer in school, and begin to perform better. Equality in schools is also about stopping and preventing bullying against LGBTQ youth. For example, instead of solely punishing students who have bullied someone, we also have to engage with them in communication about why their actions were wrong, how they can affect others, and how to prevent similar events in the future. Because, as we agreed in our meeting, bullying and discrimination rarely stem from malicious intent, but rather from ignorance and a lack of knowledge about other identities.Our main question for the Secretary was where do we, both activists and the federal government, go from here? With a changing administration, it’s uncertain what the future holds regarding the Department of Education. Luckily, career staffers who will be remaining in the department attended the meeting, and will be able to carry our experiences and thoughts into their future work. When asking what we should do to help improve the national school climate, the Secretary ensured us to continue fighting for our rights and for the rights of other students. Furthermore, he told us that any change we make is valuable, as it contributes to a larger whole.

As I move forward in my work as a student activist, I hope to keep the Secretary’s words of wisdom and encouragement close to my heart, and I would only hope that other students across the country can do the same.

This session was a part of the ongoing “Student Voices” series at the Department through which students engage with senior staff members to help develop recommendations on current and future education programs and policies.

Katie Regittko is a Junior at Crossroads Flex High School.

The post LGBT Students Work to Ensure Safe and Supportive Schools for all Students appeared first on ED.gov Blog.

Categories: Higher Education News

Creating an Educational System that Supports Democracy Through Student Activism

January 18, 2017 - 3:00pm

Education is the great engine of our democracy and the fuel for that engine is the opportunities students have to engage in activism on issues that are important to them. It is the job of adult allies to nurture and support student in this endeavor.  Seven student leaders from across the country came to ED to share  how they successfully accomplished advocacy efforts on their respective high schools and colleges campuses, specifically identifying the supports they received and how government: teachers, principals, school board members, public college/university administrators, state legislatures, and yes federal officials can best support them in their advocacy efforts.

Taylor and Mecca, both members of the Baltimore Intersection, are high school students in Baltimore and have successfully advocated to the people of Baltimore and the Baltimore City Council passed the Children and Youth Investment Act. This Baltimore City Council Act is a first-of-its-kind fund to pump $31 million in new funding into programs geared toward children and youth. Taylor shared that without the Intersection she would not be the advocate she is today, “In my house we don’t talk about politics, sports or religion. The intersection gave me this opportunity to find my voice.”

Sol Ortega, a first-generation college student was not an activist in high school, but developed her passion through learning about DACA at  Valencia Community College and after transferring to University of Florida she  became involved in the La Casita program and heard her friends and peers share their experiences being undocumented. Advocating for equitable tuition rates for immigrant students within Florida became her focus and she became an active member in the Gators for Tuition Equality and urged the Florida legislature to support all students in attaining a college education.

Payton Head, former Student Government President of University of Missouri, shared about barriers he faced with the “Missouri state legislature pursued placing sanctions (eliminating funding) for activism on campuses and the DOJ stepping in to help secure campus when state leadership would not intervene during threats.” He did not overcome these barriers alone, but found a community of student government leaders thought he National Campus Leadership Council to share best practices for activism and advocacy, learn about the success stories of student organizations doing work to address a myriad of issues on college campuses. This community provided him support, tactics, and helped him address some of the issues during his tenure representing around 28,000 students Missou.

As the session came to a close, a student leader asked Secretary King about holding future education leaders accountable and he responded with four ideas:

  1. Political activism and organizing needs to happen all the time, not just during election season.
  2. Coalition building needs to be broader, bring together high school, college students, adult advocates.
  3. Don’t only be D.C. focused, work on the state, local and institutional levels.
  4. Collect data, information and stories to advocate for your respective issues.

This session was a part of the ongoing “Student Voices” series at the Department through which students engage with senior staff members to help develop recommendations on current and future education programs and policies.

Sam Ryan, Youth Liaison, Office of Communication and Outreach.

The post Creating an Educational System that Supports Democracy Through Student Activism appeared first on ED.gov Blog.

Categories: Higher Education News

A New Principal — Again

January 18, 2017 - 1:00pm

Nine times in twenty-eight years of teaching I’ve gone through the training of a new principal in my high school.  Nine times! And to make matters more frustrating, the replacement always seems to be the philosophical and pedagogical opposite of the one he or she is replacing. The gentle farmer replaced by the fire-breathing nun, the retired Navy commander replaced by a Phi Beta Kappan from a Denver suburb, the teacher-friendly curriculum specialist replaced by education’s answer to a prison warden.  You get the idea.  Most recently this trend continued with a beloved, student-centered Principal of the Year being replaced by a National Guard Lieutenant Colonel in the Infantry.  My English department (really the entire staff) looked to me for guidance on how to bridge this transition of power.

My experience has taught me that principals are hired for a reason seldom related to continuing the work of her or his predecessor.  Often they are hired to correct a perceived weakness in the previous principal or to correct a problem that irks several board members (low attendance, weak test scores, a mediocre sports program, or poor performance on fire and tornado drills — really).  For whatever reason, the new principal has now redecorated the office, hired a new receptionist, and changed the letterhead.  He or she is now in charge.  What should teachers do?

First, adopt an attitude to do what you can to help the new principal succeed.

Beginning with a negative mindset will produce nothing but tension and set in motion a struggle teachers cannot win.  Help the principal to get to know the students, invite her or him to your class, and practice professionalism in your relationships with students, parents and faculty.  Be your best self.

Second, be open to new ideas.

Consider the principal’s decision to require daily lesson plans, weekly faculty meetings after school, all of the faculty teaching ACT vocabulary, or journaling at the beginning of each class.  Perhaps considering the new policies will spark a discussion that will lead to an idea that will genuinely help students improve.  A principal’s new policy often morphs into one that the principal and faculty can agree on when the principal perceives teachers are positive, thoughtful and professional.

Third, be honest.

Do not sacrifice your educational beliefs about what works in a classroom and how a school should function.  The focus should always be on what will benefit students.  Your principles should not be surrendered to appease a new administrator’s point of view.  But, they can be shared with a considerate tone and empathetic conversation.

Personally, after nine such experiences, I found some personal practices that helped me make the transition.  If I was bothered by something the new principal promoted, I would take a walk.  I always thought better and more deeply when I took a relaxing walk through the school halls, around the football field, or up the trail through senior hill.  Often I would write in my journal.  I agree with what Roger Rosenblatt opined, “Writing requires generosity toward every point of view.”  But I practiced without fail something my grandmother, a retired English teacher, once told me when I had a disagreement with my best friend: “I believe in the power of kindness.  Kindness is not weak but strong, not disagreeable but redemptive.”  Who could argue with a lesson like that?

Jeff Baxter, the 2014 Kansas Teacher of the Year, teaches AP Literature at Blue Valley West High School in Overland Park, KS.  A graduate of the University of Kansas with Bachelor’s Degrees in Education and English and a Master’s Degree in Secondary Education, he also has a Juris Doctorate from Washburn University School of Law.  In his twenty-nine years of teaching, Jeff has taught non-readers to National Merit Finalists. 


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Categories: Higher Education News

Launching ED’s Developer Hub

January 17, 2017 - 7:30am

Today, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) launches its first developer hub, a dedicated space for centralizing our developer resources, documenting open government efforts at the agency, and celebrating what you have built using ED data and code.

Work began last year to redesign how the Department engages technologists. Partnering with 18F, the federal government’s digital consultancy agency, ED’s open data initiative, InformED, developed a two-pronged approach to better serve developers: (1) establish a presence on Github and (2) create a central location for developer-focused content.

With the help of 18F and offices across the Department, we are excited to introduce ED’s official developer hub usedgov.github.io—an extension of ED’s official Github account @usedgov!

What We’ve Built (And Why)

When we started developing the hub, we wanted to address a few outstanding needs.

First, we needed to organize and grow our selection of open source projects and APIs. For some time, the College Scorecard API and code repository were all that we could feature. To expand our offerings, 18F helped us set up an instance of their open source project, AutoAPI, an API engine that converts flat files into a web service. That technology gives ED a simple and easy way to deliver more APIs. We used it to create a set of My Brother’s Keeper APIs and Civil Rights Data Collection APIs, providing additional access points to compelling student equity data. Now centrally located and documented, these resources (and those to come) will be more discoverable and easier to use.

Next, we needed to consolidate news on how ED is working to improve education’s digital landscape and access to federal education data. The hub’s News section is where we can share information about the progress of open government innovation at ED. By cataloguing our successes here, the public can better understand what we’ve done—and what more we have to do. We hope this cache of stories will support ongoing conversations about the importance of open data and embracing digital technology.

Finally, we needed a space to highlight the work of developers who have used ED’s resources to bring incredible ideas to life. The hub’s interactive app gallery allows you to explore how others are translating federal education resources and data into actionable tools for a wide range of users. Take a look and get inspired!

Development of the hub took several months. By incorporating only openly licensed components, such as the source code for CFPB’s brilliant developer hub, we saved resources and time. It also ensures that internal and external users can repurpose what we have built however they see fit.

We’re Just Beginning… And We Need You!

These are foundational efforts. At launch, our catalog of ED APIs and open source components is limited—but will expand with your help. In launching a developer hub and Github account, ED sees the beginning of a stronger, more collaborative relationship with the developer community.

ED hopes these platforms grow to reflect what you, the user, would like to see from them. We want your feedback. Tell us what APIs you would like to see and your ideas for improving our datasets and documentation. We’re listening. Help us build a better partnership, so that we can build a better world for students—together!

InformED is the U.S. Department of Education’s primary open data initiative whose mission is to establish a world-class open data infrastructure at ED.

The post Launching ED’s Developer Hub appeared first on ED.gov Blog.

Categories: Higher Education News

4 Loan Forgiveness Programs for Teachers

January 14, 2017 - 6:00am

1. Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program

Forgives the remaining balance on your Federal Direct Loans after 120 qualifying payments (10 years).

View complete program details at StudentAid.gov/publicservice.

Here are some highlights:

  • This program has the broadest employment qualification requirements of the federal programs listed—it doesn’t require that you teach at a low-income a public school, or even be a teacher. Most full-time public and private elementary and secondary school teachers will meet the employment requirements.
  • You must have Direct Loans. If you have other types of federal loans, like FFEL or Perkins Loans, you must consolidate in order for those loans to qualify. To check which types of loans you have, log in to StudentAid.gov.
  • You should repay your loans on an income-driven repayment plan if you want to get the most value out of the program. You can apply for an income-driven repayment plan on StudentLoans.gov.
  • In order for payments to count toward the 120 needed to get forgiveness, they need to be full payments, made no more than 15 days late, and made after October 1, 2007.
  • Loan amounts forgiven under PSLF are NOT considered taxable by the IRS.

To confirm whether you qualify for the program, submit this form ASAP.

2. Teacher Loan Forgiveness

Forgives up to $17,500 of your Direct or FFEL Subsidized or Unsubsidized Loans after 5 complete and consecutive years of teaching at a qualifying school.

View complete program details at StudentAid.gov/teach-forgive.

Here are some highlights:

  • You must have been employed as a full-time teacher at an eligible school for five complete and consecutive academic years, and at least one of those years must have been after the 1997–98 academic year.
  • Certain highly qualified special education and secondary mathematics or science teachers can qualify for up to $17,500 in forgiveness. Other eligible teachers can qualify for up to $5,000.
  • PLUS loans and Perkins loans are not eligible to be forgiven through this program.
  • Any time you spent teaching to receive benefits through AmeriCorps cannot be counted toward your required five years of teaching for Teacher Loan Forgiveness.
  • You apply for teacher loan forgiveness after you have completed the five-year teaching requirement.

Print and complete the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Application.

 3. Perkins Loan Cancellation for Teachers Forgives up to 100% of your Federal Perkins Loan Program if you teach full-time at a low-income school, or if you teach certain subjects.
View complete program details at StudentAid.gov/teach-forgive.

Here are some highlights:

  • This program can only forgive your Federal Perkins Loans. Check to see if you have Perkins loans at StudentAid.gov.
  • If you are eligible for this program, up to 100 percent of the loan may be canceled for teaching service, in the following increments:
    • 15 percent canceled per year for the first and second years of service
    • 20 percent canceled for the third and fourth years
    • 30 percent canceled for the fifth year
    • Each amount canceled per year includes the interest that accrued during the year.
  • To find out if a school is classified as a low-income school, check our online database for the year(s) you have been employed as a teacher.
  • Even if you don’t teach at a low-income school, you may qualify if you teach mathematics, science, foreign languages, bilingual or special education, or different subject determined by your state education agency to have a shortage of qualified teachers in your state.
  • Private school teachers can qualify if the school has established its nonprofit status with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and if the school is providing elementary and/or secondary education according to state law.

To apply for Perkins Cancellation, contact the school(s) where you obtained the Perkins Loan. Each school has its own process.

 4. State-Sponsored Student Loan Forgiveness Programs

Tons of states offer loan forgiveness programs for teachers—especially if you teach in a high need area. The American Federation of Teachers has a great searchable database you can use to find state and local forgiveness programs you might qualify for.

You may qualify for more than one of the programs listed above. In some instances though, your decision to take advantage of one program may impact your ability to take advantage of another. For example:

  • You must have Direct Loans in order to qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness. If you have any Perkins Loans, you may be tempted to consolidate them into the Direct Loan Program in order to make them eligible for PSLF. However, if you do that, you’ll no longer qualify for Perkins Cancellation. You may be better off leaving your Perkins Loans out of the consolidation loan so you can take advantage of both programs.
  • You may not receive a benefit under both the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program and the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program for the same period of teaching service. For example, if you make payments on your loans during your five years of qualifying employment for Teacher Loan Forgiveness and then receive loan forgiveness for that service, the payments you made during that five year period will not count toward PSLF.

As you’re trying to decide which option(s) are right for you, consult your federal loan servicer. They can give you advice based on your specific situation.

Nicole Callahan is a Digital Engagement Strategist at the U.S. Department of Education’s office of Federal Student Aid.

Photo by Getty Images.

The post 4 Loan Forgiveness Programs for Teachers appeared first on ED.gov Blog.

Categories: Higher Education News

U.S. Department of Education Announces Final Regulation on Open Licensing Requirement for Competitive Grant Programs

January 13, 2017 - 1:18pm

A few months ago, I had the opportunity to meet with Benetech, one of our grantees, and observe some of the tools they have developed under their Department grant to help visually impaired people access the content of graphics in books.  The tool has many applications, including giving visually impaired children the opportunity to better enjoy picture books and high school students better access to information in graphics and diagrams in science books. An interesting aspect of Benetech’s approach is that they share the descriptions with everyone wherever they may be in the world who can benefit from them. This is possible because they have voluntarily applied an open content license to all materials created through their DIAGRAM Center, and an open source license to their software.

“As a mission-focused nonprofit, we believe that openness and transparency are the best ways to accomplish our goals of equal access to education for special needs students,” said Benetech CEO Jim Fruchterman. “This has made it easier to work cooperatively with other leading organizations because it was expressly established that the resulting content would be available to all on an equal basis through the open license.”

Similarly, the Department’s First in the World (FITW) grant program has made available more than $135 million worth of innovations in higher education to the public through open licenses. For example, one grantee, College of America at Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU), created a learning platform and skill-building modules to provide academic assistance for underprepared adults re-entering higher education that any other interested institution will be able to freely use.

“We want the innovations and resources that we create with the Department¹s funding to be available to our colleagues at other institutions so that they can use our work as a basis for their own innovations. This allows them to serve the unique needs of their own students better.” Paul Leblanc, President of SNHU.

Building on the work of these and other grantees who have led the way with open licenses, today we are announcing a rule that will significantly enhance dissemination of valuable educational resources and provide stakeholders with greater access to use, reuse, and modify these deliverables.  We expect that this will yield great benefits for educators, students, and their education communities.  The final regulation requires, with certain exceptions, that grantees receiving Department funds under a competitive grant program openly license copyrightable grant deliverables created with those funds.

When we first published our proposed open licensing rule in October 2015, Secretary of Education John B. King, Jr. spoke of the promise of taking an open approach, “By requiring an open license, we will ensure that high-quality resources created through our public funds are shared with the public, thereby ensuring equal access for all teachers and students regardless of their location or background. We are excited to join other federal agencies leading on this work to ensure that we are part of the solution to helping classrooms transition to next generation materials.”

The rule we have announced today supports our commitment in the Third U.S. Open Government National Action Plan to expand access to educational resources through open licensing. In doing so, we join other federal agencies, including the Departments of Labor, State (including USAID), and the National Science Foundation, that currently administer programs with open licensing requirements.

Regarding the final regulations:

  1. The open licenses will give the public permission to use and reuse deliverables created in whole or in part with Department competitive grants funds provided by the Department.
  2. The requirement applies both to grant deliverables (e.g. teacher professional development training modules) and any final version of program support materials necessary to the use or reuse of the deliverables.
  3. Grantees or subgrantees will provide a dissemination plan and may select the open license appropriate to their grant deliverables.
  4. Based on feedback from public comments and input from other federal agencies, the Department has added certain categorical exceptions, such as for the Ready to Learn Television grant program.
  5. The Department will fully implement this rule for all applicable competitive grant programs in FY 2018.

The final regulation can be found here: https://tech.ed.gov/files/2017/01/ED-Open-Licensing-Rule-1.11.17-Public.pdf

I am pleased that many more instructors and students will be able to access learning resources paid for with public funds.  By sharing our work openly with each other, we can all benefit.

Joseph South is Director of the Office of Educational Technology at the U.S. Department of Education.

The post U.S. Department of Education Announces Final Regulation on Open Licensing Requirement for Competitive Grant Programs appeared first on ED.gov Blog.

Categories: Higher Education News

New Report Shows Increased Need for Federal Investments in Early Learning

January 13, 2017 - 6:30am

Are there too many federal early learning programs?  This question has been contentiously debated and discussed in Washington, DC for years.  Are programs that simply permit funding for early learning as a part of a larger initiative, such as Title I or English Language Acquisition grants, considered early learning programs?  Should programs that merely mention the importance of early learning – the Appalachian Area Development grants or Donations of Federal Surplus Personal Property program – be considered early learning programs?  These issues have emerged from a 2012 Government Accounting Office (GAO) report.

A “too many programs” argument has been frequently cited as evidence of government waste, overlap, and duplication and a reason not to provide any new investments to support our youngest children achieve success in school.  However, a recent analysis of federal programs conducted by the Departments of Education (ED) and Health and Human Services (HHS) make it clear that the investments in early learning are not meeting the needs of families across the nation and many eligible families are not receiving services.

At the direction of Congress, ED and HHS considered these issues in a new report:  The Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Education Joint Interdepartmental Review of All Early Learning Programs for Children Less Than 6 Years of AgeIn the report, ED and HHS reviewed all federal programs identified by GAO and concluded that only eight programs have the primary purpose of promoting early learning for children from birth to age six:

  1. Child Care and Development Fund
  2. Head Start
  3. Early Head Start
  4. Preschool Development Grants
  5. Department of Defense Child Development Program
  6. Part C of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
  7. Part B, Section 619 of the IDEA
  8. Family and Child Education (FACE)

Each program provides critical services for children and families, and they often work together to help meet the diverse needs of children from birth through age five. For example, programs such as Early Head Start and IDEA Part C serve children birth to age three, whereas Head Start, Preschool Development Grants, and IDEA Part B section 619 serve preschool-aged children. While some federal early learning programs serve a similar age span, they have different purposes and offer different services, such as child care and interventions for children with disabilities. Furthermore, half of these programs, including IDEA, the Bureau of Indian Education’s FACE and the Department of Defense Child Development Program, address the needs of distinct populations – children with special needs, Native American families and children of military parents, respectively. These federal investments in early learning aren’t duplicative but rather synergistic and recognize the diversity of children’s and working families’ needs.

As mentioned above, a number of federal programs may allow funding of early learning at the state or local level, but the use of funds for this purpose is not the primary focus and is optional, competing with other priorities for scarce resources. When early learning has to compete with services for older children, early learning often loses out.  For example, at ED, less than three percent of students supported by Title I, Part A funds are enrolled in preschool, and approximately one percent of children ages three through eight are supported by Indian Education Grants to Local Educational Agencies funds.

The report discusses the Administration’s efforts to reduce fragmentation and maximize the current and future investments to increase the quality of and access to early learning for children from birth to kindergarten.  It describes how ED and HHS are fostering coordination and collaboration at the Federal, state, and local levels, including through the voluntary Interagency Policy Board (IPB), to ensure a more effective, efficient, and high-quality system of early learning.

The eight early learning programs discussed in the report receive far less funding than is needed to serve all or even most eligible children or provide the level of resources needed to support and sustain high-quality services to ensure all children have a strong foundation of learning.  For example: Only four percent of income-eligible infants and toddlers are receiving Early Head Start services and only 40 percent of income eligible preschool-aged children are enrolled in Head Start.

We hope you will download a copy of this report and share with policymakers.  It helps us all to understand the complexity of the early learning system and the need for expanding services.

Libby Doggett directs the early learning activities at ED and is the primary  early education liaison with the White House, the US Department of Health and Human Services and other agencies.

The post New Report Shows Increased Need for Federal Investments in Early Learning appeared first on ED.gov Blog.

Categories: Higher Education News

More Transparency in Higher Education Will Help Improve Student Outcomes

January 12, 2017 - 10:00am

Every year, the U.S. Department of Education provides billions of dollars in Federal financial aid to help students enroll in college. Yet too many students—roughly two in five bachelor’s degree-seeking students—leave school with no degree, often leaving them with debt, no job, and a high risk of default. In recent years, the Department has made strides toward improving these odds, yet more work remains.

To identify the most promising ways to improve postsecondary outcomes, researchers and policymakers need transparency into the data collected from Federal Student Aid (FSA) programs. That’s why the Department has taken significant steps to ensure more and better data are available. And it’s why today, we are announcing additional efforts to support responsible data access and transparency of information about higher education, while supporting borrower privacy and data security.

  • Expanding Researcher Access to Student Aid Data: Researchers can provide critical insights about student loan repayment, including answering questions about the best ways to help struggling borrowers stay on track to repay their loans. Today, the Department is announcing a roadmap to support researchers in accessing appropriately protected student aid data for these kinds of studies. That includes partnering with the Federal Reserve Board through an Advancing Insights through Data pilot project to study student loan repayment plan selection and the relationships between income-driven repayment plans and outcomes like student loan defaults.We’re also working with researchers to better understand their needs and inform the creation of a privacy-protected, public-use microdata file from the National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS) that can facilitate valuable research and other studies of higher education. By October 2017, we plan to have conducted researcher engagement and announced the outcome of those discussions, including the necessary steps and time required to create this file.
  • Clarifying Permissible Uses of Financial Aid Data for Program Evaluation and Research: The rules for using data within an institution are complex, and both colleges and researchers sometimes lack clarity on how they can use data to improve student outcomes while protecting students’ privacy. That’s why today, the Privacy Technical Assistance Center released guidance that clarifies the ways in which colleges and universities can use Federal student financial aid information for program evaluation and research purposes.
  • Continuing Efforts to Ensure Transparency: Already, we’ve worked to increase the collection and sharing of useful information, through the Department’s Office of Postsecondary Education, FSA, and the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). We’ve built a rich base of data on the student loan portfolio and institutions through the FSA Data Center and created user-friendly tools like the College Scorecard and the Financial Aid Shopping Sheet to put information in the hands of students.We’re also supporting existing efforts to expand data use and evidence about what works. NCES recently announced plans to implement the 2017-18 National Postsecondary Student Aid Study, Administrative Collection (NPSAS: 18-AC), a new financial aid data collection that will allow researchers to examine nationally representative financial aid estimates on a 2-year cycle instead of the current 4-year cycle. Additionally, NCES anticipates that the new study will have representative samples from most States, allowing researchers to generate State-representative financial aid estimates for comparative purposes. And we plan to continue our work to support evidence-based policies and practices with a commitment to supporting the work of the Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking, which was established with bipartisan congressional support last year to create a strategy for increasing the use of data to build better evidence about taxpayer-funded programs.

Better outcomes for postsecondary students can mean huge differences for students, offering them the opportunity to earn personal fulfillment and career success. Our continued commitment to increasing transparency will support evidence-based and data-driven practices that can help all students reach those goals.

Lynn Mahaffie is delegated duties of Assistant Secretary for Postsecondary Education.

The post More Transparency in Higher Education Will Help Improve Student Outcomes appeared first on ED.gov Blog.

Categories: Higher Education News

How to Fill Out the FAFSA When You Have More Than One Child in College

January 12, 2017 - 6:00am

Having one child who is heading to college can be stressful, but having to help multiple children at the same time can feel like too much to manage. While I can’t save you from a forgotten application deadline or the “how to do your own laundry” lessons, hopefully, I can help make the financial aid part of the process run more smoothly with these tips:

How many FSA IDs will my children and I need? How many FAFSAs do we have to complete?

An FSA ID is a username and password combination that serves as your legal electronic signature throughout the financial aid process—from the first time your children fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid ( FAFSA®) until the time their loans are paid off. You AND each of your children will need your own FSA ID. Parents and students can create their FSA IDs here.

Each of your children will need to fill out a FAFSA. Your children will also need to provide your (parent) information on their 2017–18 FAFSA unless they are going to graduate school, were born before January 1, 1994, or can answer “yes” to any of these questions.

Example: You have three children who are going to or who are in college. You’ll need four FSA IDs—one for you as the parent (only one parent needs an FSA ID) and one for each child. You’ll need to fill out three FAFSAs, one for each child.

Can I transfer my information from one child’s FAFSA to another so I don’t have to re-enter it?

Yes! Once your first child’s FAFSA is complete, you’ll get to a confirmation page. On the confirmation page, you’ll see a hyperlink that says, “transfer your parents’ information into a new FAFSA.” Make sure you have your pop-up blocker turned off and click that link.

TIP: If you want the process to go as smoothly as possible, your second child should have his/her FSA ID handy so you’re ready for the next step.


You’ll then see the alert below confirming that you want to transfer your information to another FAFSA.


Once you click “OK,” a new window will open allowing your other child to start his or her FAFSA. We recommend that your child starts the FAFSA by entering his or her FSA ID (not your FSA ID) using the option on the left in the image below. However, if you are starting your child’s FAFSA, choose the option on the right and enter your child’s information.

IMPORTANT:  Regardless of who starts the application from this screen, the FAFSA remains the student’s application; so when the FAFSA says “you” it means the student. If the FAFSA is asking for parent information, it will specify that. When in doubt, refer to the left side of the screen. It will indicate whether you’re on a student page (blue) or a parent page (purple).

After you select the FAFSA you’d like to complete and create a save key, you’ll be brought to the introduction page, which will indicate that parental data was copied into your second child’s FAFSA.

Once you reach the parent information page, you will see your information pre-populated. Verify this info, proceed to sign and submit the FAFSA, and you’re done!

NOTE: If you have a third (or fourth, fifth, etc.) child who needs to fill out the FAFSA and provide your information, repeat this process until you’ve finished all your children’s FAFSAs.

I have education savings accounts (529 plan, etc.) for my children. How do I report those on the FAFSA?

You report the value of all education savings accounts owned by you, your child, or any other dependent children in your household as a parent investment. (Read “What is the net worth of your parents’ investments?” for more information.) If you have education savings accounts for multiple children, you must report the combined current value of those accounts, even if some of those children are not in college yet or are not completing a FAFSA.

Example: Child 1 and 2 are filling out the FAFSA. Child 3 is in 8th grade. They each have 529 college savings plan accounts in their names.

  • Child 1 account balance: $20,000
  • Child 2 account balance: $13,000
  • Child 3 account balance: $8,000

You would add $41,000 to any other parent investments you’re required to report and input it when asked, “What is the net worth of your parents’ investments?” on each of your children’s FAFSAs.

How does having more than one child in college impact the amount of financial aid my children qualify for?

Having multiple children enrolled in college at the same time could have an impact on your children’s eligibility for need-based federal financial aid.

TIP: We often hear about families who choose not to fill out the FAFSA again because they believe that they won’t qualify for grants or scholarships, especially if they did not qualify the previous year. This is a huge mistake, especially if you will have additional children entering college. Read on to learn why.

Schools use the following formula to determine a student’s eligibility for need-based financial aid:

Cost of attendance (COA) – Expected Family Contribution (EFC) = financial need

Let’s break down this formula:

Cost of attendance: This will vary by school, so if you have two children attending different schools with different costs, their financial need may be different, even if their EFC is the same.

Expected Family Contribution: The information you provide on the FAFSA is used to calculate your child’s Expected Family Contribution (EFC). The EFC is a combination of how much a parent and student are expected to contribute towards the student’s cost to attend college. The EFC is not necessarily the amount of money your family will have to pay for college, nor is it the amount of federal student aid you will receive. It is a number used by your child’s school to calculate how much financial aid he or she is eligible to receive. Since we recognize that a parent’s annual ability to pay doesn’t change as you have more children enroll in college, we divide the expected parent contribution portion by the number of children you expect to have in college.

Example: Let’s assume that all of your dependent children have identical financial information and that the calculated EFC assuming one child in college would be $10,000. Here’s how each child’s EFC would change depending on the number of family members attending college full-time.

Number of dependent children in college full-time Each child’s EFC 1 $10,000 2 $5,000 3 $3,333 4 $2,500

Financial need: Please note that schools differ (sometimes greatly) in their ability to meet each student’s financial need. To compare average school costs schools based on family income, visit the CollegeScorecard.ed.gov.

Nicole Callahan is a Digital Engagement Strategist at the U.S. Department of Education’s office of Federal Student Aid.

Photo by Getty Images

The post How to Fill Out the FAFSA When You Have More Than One Child in College appeared first on ED.gov Blog.

Categories: Higher Education News

Believe in Your Power

January 11, 2017 - 1:00pm

On Thursday, January 12, thousands of teachers across the nation will receive appreciation phone calls from the Department of Education; these educators were nominated by their colleagues, parents, and students to receive these calls. As a Teaching Ambassador Fellow, I had a chance to read the comments stating why each educator deserved a phone call.

“He has been a beacon of light and hope for my daughter who sometimes struggles but has so much to offer the world. He challenges and educates, but most of all he cares.”

“She is tirelessly dedicated to serving some of the most historically underserved students in our school system, very high needs, minority special education students. She is a true advocate for justice and equity!”

Some nominators addressed their nominees directly:
“You have played one of the greatest roles in my life both as an educator and a friend. The relationship you built with me in sixth grade pushed me to be a hardworking student and always do my best. You were also a big reason for me choosing this career path. I can’t thank you enough for all you have done for me throughout my life.”

Reading these comments was inspirational, but at the same time created a dilemma of approach. Educators often perceive ourselves to be self-sacrificing, self-effacing servants whose good work necessarily goes unnoticed. This perception matches our daily experience, which includes constant attention to youth needing our help, ceaseless problem-solving, recess duty in the cold, and hours without a bathroom break. Teachers will never be free of these demands.

Yet, self-sacrifice and self-effacement are hardly the best approaches to demonstrating our worth. Educators are pillars of society; we support the future. We must articulate our value and share with policymakers and our communities the important, progressive work we are doing in our classrooms every single day. Otherwise, those policymakers and the public will not ever see us as more than sacrificial, invisible worker bees. We have to begin by appreciating ourselves, calling out the positives we see around us, and lifting up each other.

Humility does not serve without a voice, and strategic advocacy does not have to be arrogant. To this end I’m issuing to educators a call to conviction: Cultivate a mindset of professionalism, believe in your own agency beyond your classroom walls. We must start to see ourselves as the builders of society and only then will others follow. We have worked hard for our expertise, our continued development, and the success of future generations. Now is the time to own that amazing work.

At its core, appreciation is a principle rather than an action. And while I look forward to phoning educators for Educator Appreciation Week, I’m even more enthusiastic about demonstrating this conviction from inside my classroom and beyond: the work of educators

Anna E. Baldwin teaches English at Arlee High School on the Flathead Indian Reservation in Montana. She is a 2016-2017 Teaching Ambassador Fellow as well as the 2014 Montana Teacher of the Year.

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Categories: Higher Education News

Ensuring Education for All Children

January 11, 2017 - 7:00am

For most children, school is their home away from home. There they form friendships, socialize, grow, and learn.  Children and their families rely on teachers, principals, and other school staff to nurture and protect them when away from home.  And families and educators have a shared responsibility to work together and ensure that schools are safe environments for all, including our youngest and most vulnerable children.  We can best meet this responsibility when we have a clear understanding of policies and resources that can support the creation of safe learning environments, and ultimately, children’s development and learning.

The U.S. Department of Education (ED) regularly releases resources to help educators, school administrators, and families to protect and ensure equitable access to education for all children, including our most vulnerable student populations.  For example, in the past few years, ED has released several documents that address the needs of immigrant children.  One example is the Newcomer Toolkit ED released in September that provided a one-stop shop for educators who serve newcomer students.  The toolkit both catalogued resources for meeting the unique socio-emotional and academic needs of these students and highlighted the assets that newcomer students bring to the classroom.

In a continuing effort to inform the community of stakeholders who care for our children and to respond to continuing demand from the field, today ED is releasing a new resource guide for early learning educators and families as a follow-up to a 2015 Resource Guide focused on secondary students.

  • The resource guide includes two parts:
    • The first half of the resource guide, entitled Resource Guide: Building a Bright Future for All, provides tips for educators in early learning programs and elementary schools as well as schools, districts, and States to (1) facilitate school enrollment by immigrant families; (2) promote healthy child development in the school setting; (3) encourage caregiver engagement in children’s education; and (4) build staff capacity and knowledge about immigrant students and their educational needs.
    • The second half of the guide entitled Handbook for Parents, Guardians, & Families: Building a Bright Future for All provides tips for parents and guardians on how to promote and facilitate children’s education from birth and play an active role in helping to ensure their children’s success in school regardless of their own schooling history or context.

Additionally, to respond to questions from the field, ED is also sharing information today about two Department of Homeland Security (DHS) policies that may be of interest to educators, school leaders, and families:

  • A “sensitive locations” factsheet for educators and families provides a user-friendly explanation of how DHS policy defines immigration enforcement activity around “sensitive locations,” including schools and school bus stops, as well as other community spaces and social activities.
  • In addition, ED is highlighting for teachers that under DHS policy, young people who are in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody should have timely access to educational materials sent by a local education agency, school, school administrator, or individual teacher. Additionally, consistent with applicable rules, these young people should have the opportunity to complete school work and return it to the local education agency, school, school administrator, or individual teacher. This policy can be found on the DHS website Part 2.5 – Funds and Personal Property and questions can be directed to Info@ice.dhs.gov.

Whether at home or at school, as parents or as educators, the foremost issue in our minds is the well-being of our children. By being informed and working together, we can ensure that all children have the educational access they need and deserve to be safe, secure, and happy.

Dana Nerenberg is a Principal Ambassador Fellow at the U.S. Department of Education and Principal of Sitton Elementary School in Portland, and Frances Frost serves as the Family Ambassador, U.S. Department of Education. Find her on Twitter @FamiliesatED.

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Categories: Higher Education News

What Gets Measured, Gets Done: DC Public Schools’ FAFSA Completion Initiative

January 11, 2017 - 6:30am

Let’s state the obvious: 1) Financial aid plays a huge factor in students’ college-going decisions and success (especially low-income students); and 2) Completing the FAFSA is essential for students to access almost all forms of financial aid. So, for a large urban district like DC Public Schools, where 77 percent of our students qualify for free and reduced price lunch, getting graduating seniors to complete their FAFSAs on time isn’t an optional task- it’s a necessary one.

In the fall of 2014, DCPS began a data-driven FAFSA Completion Initiative developed in partnership with our State Education Agency (SEA) and the US Department of Education’s Federal Student Aid Programs Division (FSA). DCPS saw a 3 percentage point increase from year one to year two of effort, and are aiming for an additional 3 percentage point increase this year. Here’s how we made it happen:

  • Access FSA’s FAFSA Completion Portal: In 2014, FSA granted SEAs access to student-level FAFSA completion data. Prior to this, we could only measure FAFSA completion by school, which wasn’t granular enough to act on in a meaningful way. DCPS collaborated with our SEA to allow us and school leaders access to the FAFSA portal data, which lets us see exactly which students had completed the FAFSA, and who had submitted the FAFSA with errors (and which ones).
  • Make the Data Actionable & Accessible: At DCPS, we often say, “What gets measured, gets done.” Every two weeks, we format the FAFSA portal data into an easy-to-read summary table that we email to all school leaders, staff, and college access providers responsible for FAFSA completion. Here’s a sample, simplified version:

  • Goal Setting: In our first year of the Initiative, we didn’t set goals. Big mistake! Our school leaders were eager for goals that were differentiated to their school – ambitious, but realistic. As we set goals, we take into account the school’s prior year graduation, FAFSA completion, and college enrollment rates.
  • Follow Up, Follow Up, and More Follow Up: The biweekly email to school leadership with updated completion rates for all schools and the district provides helpful context on their progress compared to peer schools, generates some healthy competition, and serves as a nice prompt for school leaders to log-in to the Portal to see exactly which students have and haven’t completed their FAFSAs. We also follow up directly with schools who are lagging behind, or who have requested a strategy session to improve their completion rates.
  • Get District Leadership On Board: Monthly, we share with district leadership a FAFSA completion summary; our leaders are invested in retaining our highest-in-the-nation FAFSA completion rate, and their support matters to the initiative’s success.
  • Celebrate Successes: District leaders give shout-outs to schools meeting or exceeding their goals. Schools hold FAFSA completion celebrations. This year, we’re giving #DCPSGoesToCollege t-shirts to students who complete their FAFSA. It’s important to celebrate this milestone on students’ pathway to college.

We’re proud of our DCPS FAFSA Completion initiative, and the partnerships that led to it. What are your districts doing to promote FAFSA completion? Have any thoughts on how we can improve our model? Questions for us? Please share!

Dr. Bibo oversees Career Education, Work-Based Learning, and College Prep Programming for the District of Columbia Public Schools. She earned her Ph.D. in Education Policy from the University of Maryland, College Park and her Master’s in Education Policy from Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education.

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Categories: Higher Education News

Which College Is Right for You? 3 Questions to Ask Yourself

January 9, 2017 - 2:19pm

“So, where are you going to school next year?” Sometimes it feels like this is the only question people ask you. Maybe you’ve been dreaming about a certain university, or maybe you have no idea what you even want to do with your life, let alone where to go to school. Choosing the right program is one of the biggest decisions of your life (no pressure). But before you take the plunge, here are three questions to help you figure out “What’s best for me?”

1. Do I know what I want to do with my life?

If you can answer a resounding “Yes!” to this question, I would suggest you stay open to new possibilities. For example, I really thought I wanted to be a psychologist, so I found a great school with a great psychology program. However, after my first semester I realized I liked psychology, but I loved writing and teaching. I switched my major to English Writing & Rhetoric; became a published author; taught at inner-city schools; and now I work for the U.S. Department of Education. My point is you never really know where life will take you. So if you’ve always wanted to be a doctor, great: get into the best program you can—just don’t close yourself off to trying new things.

If you’re not really sure or have no clue, that’s fine; you have options. Start at a university with an undecided major. Looking to save some dough? Knock out a few basic courses at your local community college (this may give you a better indication of what you like and don’t like—just make sure your credits will transfer). Or, you can take some time off and travel or work; some good old-fashioned real-world experience can be a great eye-opener—check out this sweet career search tool for info and inspiration!

2. Have I explored all my options?

Maybe you’ve always wanted to go to Harvard; everyone in your family went to Harvard—Harvard is for you! Or is it? Sometimes the school that looks best on paper (or in your head) isn’t the best all-around fit for you. Check out competing programs; look for info like tuition, graduation rate, earning potential, typical total debt, etc.

Also, college is fun. Like FUN!!!! Yes, you’re there to work hard and get an education so you can become a contributing member of society and fulfill your dreams; but college is also a lot of fun. So, think about what type of school might be the best fit for you. Are you all about a big city or a more rural location? Do you dream of a huge campus with tons of people or do you like the idea of a closer-knit community? What about study abroad or certain social groups, organizations, clubs, and sports? These should also be factors you should include in your big decision.

By this point you might be wondering how you’re going to find all this info out and use it to compare various programs. My friends, I give you College Scorecard. This site is designed to help you find schools based on degree, location, and other search criteria. Plus, you can compare schools based on school size, average annual cost, graduation rate, average salary after graduation, etc.


3. How can I afford this?

Start hunting for scholarships and grants.  Like YouTube tutorials and social media groups, there are scholarships and grants for almost anything you can think of. Next fill out your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®). It’s free, just like the name says, so if you haven’t filled out your FAFSA yet do it now—I mean, finish this blog first—then complete your FAFSA.

Think about what you really want, do your research, look at all your options, and choose the best program for you—after all, it’s your decision.

Jonathan Goodsell is a Management and Program Analyst at the U.S. Department of Education’s office of Federal Student Aid.

Photo by Andrew Jones, U.S. Department of Education.

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Categories: Higher Education News

Are you ready to be engaged in education?

January 5, 2017 - 10:00am

With [ESSA], we reaffirm that fundamentally American ideal—that every child, regardless of race, income, background, the zip code where they live, deserves the chance to make of their lives what they will.” — President Barack Obama

On December 10, 2015, President Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act, reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA), our national education law and longstanding commitment to equal opportunity for all students.  In developing plans and implementing ESSA, stakeholder engagement – including parents – plays a crucial role in improving student outcomes in our schools.

Family engagement is crucial at the national, state and, particularly, local level where you can make a difference in your child’s school and classroom.

“Engagement” is about more than families’ one-way receiving of information and sponsoring fundraisers at school. It’s the opportunity for families to be active and integral participants in their children’s education. As examples, school districts have established parent councils to advise the  Superintendent, offered workshops on navigating the school system, and  implemented Academic Parent Teacher Teams to encourage greater conversation between teachers and parents on learning expectations and strategies to improve achievement.

Re-think family engagement, not to add burden to already-busy parents or work to teachers’ increasingly packed school day, but instead to build relationships between two crucial components of a child’s life together –families and school personnel –to further support their successful education, well-being and development.

As a parent you have plenty of options, depending on availability, interests, skills, and personal constraints, to be engaged.  Look for opportunities that work for your family.

  • Establish positive relationships with school administrators and teachers. If you haven’t met your child’s teachers yet, request a short meeting or send a quick email to introduce yourself and let them know you are there to support your child.
  • Meet with teachers about academic and social development goals for your child. Ask what your children should be able to do at his/her grade level. Ask what you can do to support learning at home. Share ideas of how the teacher can better support your child in class. If your child needs special education services – ask for a thorough explanation of options and services available. Check the Parent Checklist to get started.
  • Attend PTA or parent organization meetings and find out about the issues in your school. Ask questions if others aren’t bringing up the things that matter to your child’s success or your community.
  • Volunteer on a committee that focuses on an activity or issue important to you, whether it is school transportation, safe places to play after-school, teacher diversity, bullying or academics.
  • Voice your opinion to local and state Boards of Education and local, state, and national elected officials on things that matter to your family. Write letters, make phone calls, or attend public meetings. Check local jurisdiction or state government websites for contact information and meeting schedules.
  • Each state, by law, should have parents engaged in the process of developing and implementing ESSA for the 2017-18 school year. Check your state’s education website to find out about your parent representative and the developing plans.

Being engaged in education doesn’t require endless free time or multiple degrees and in-depth knowledge about schools. You just need a concern for your child and a little bit of time to act on that concern. You’re ready! #GetEngaged!

Frances Frost serves as the Family Ambassador, U.S. Department of Education. Find her on Twitter @FamiliesatED.

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Categories: Higher Education News

A New Year, A Fresh Perspective

January 4, 2017 - 3:15pm

Even though we are halfway through the school year, the start of 2017 is the perfect opportunity for a fresh perspective on my classroom. Just like I did with my home over break, I plan to reorganize my room and purge any resources that I no longer need. If I haven’t used it yet at this point in the year, chances are I don’t actually need it and it should go. Of course, I don’t want to throw out anything that could be useful to someone else, so I will give them away to a teacher, tutor, or student that will put them to good use. After all, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. A freshly cleaned classroom is a terrific landscape for exciting new projects.

By January, the routines and activities that we have in place can become dull and redundant to students, so this is a prime time to shake things up and try something different. I have always been interested in the idea of passion projects, and while I worry that third graders might be too young for it, I also remind myself to never underestimate the power of my students. Even if it doesn’t turn out the way I envision, I’ll never know what can be improved if I don’t try it, and there will be many lessons for all of us to learn as we go through the initiatory process. I will start by helping the kids identify problems they are affected by and brainstorming ways to solve them. No limits either, because I want them to aim high and see where it takes us. I plan to integrate technology, encourage kids to blog about their challenges and successes, and incorporate other pieces of our curriculum to model a project-based learning environment, which has been a goal of mine for a long time.

Setting new goals is another traditional part of the New Year, and that shouldn’t be limited to our personal lives, so I have been thinking about professional goals that I would like to reach in 2017. Since teacher leadership is a personal passion of mine, my list of things to do includes submitting applications for the plethora of opportunities that now exist. Most run on a calendar year so the deadlines are usually sometime in January. And, I’m excited to see what I can accomplish with summer professional development opportunities, too! I would be remiss if I didn’t plug the U.S. Department of Education’s School Ambassador Fellowship which is now open for applications until January 23rd. This Fellowship has stretched my thinking and taught me so much about policy and the importance of teacher voice, so I encourage you all to apply for a life changing experience!

While some may humbug New Year resolutions, I believe that it is always a good idea to reflect and improve, especially when it comes to how we engage with our students. I encourage you to take a few minutes and set some small goals for your classroom, too! Happy New Year!

Melody Arabo teaches third grade at Keith Elementary School in West Bloomfield, MI and is a 2016-2017 Teaching Ambassador Fellowship.

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Categories: Higher Education News

A Life Changing Experience

December 21, 2016 - 1:00pm

My experience as a U.S. Department of Education Teacher Ambassador Fellow (TAF) has been life-changing.  I learned that I should be bold and always look for opportunities to elevate the voice of teachers.   In June 2015, I joined an amazing family of Fellows with a wide range of experiences to bring to the table. Some of our common themes of passion included racial equality, fair and quality student assessments, teacher leadership, student efficacy, student advocacy, and a commitment to ensure all teachers not only had a voice but an intentional seat at the table in education discussions.

My Exciting Life as a TAF…

As a fellow, I had a unique opportunity to raise my voice regarding issues that impacted my profession and share stories from my classroom. In the fellowship, we were charged with conducting outreach to solicit feedback from teachers to inform the Department’s work. I was glad to see that educational decisions were not being made without including the qualified voice of a teacher. When I had an opportunity to consult the Office of Special Education Programs, I considered it a personal privilege since I had started my career as a Special Education teacher.  Ensuring that there is equity for students with special needs is my passion and a large part of my philosophy on education. Throughout the fellowship I had opportunities to support the Teach to Lead initiative, facilitate calls with Teachers of the Year, and even visit the White House when President Obama awarded Jahana Hayes the 2016 Teacher of the Year Award.

Elevating Teacher Voice and ESSA…

During my fellowship, President Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) into law. As fellows, we conducted nationwide listening sessions to gain feedback and questions. During my facilitation, I heard stories from teachers about how they were marginalized and devalued based on evaluation policies.  I also witnessed teachers empowered by raising their voice on issues that impacted their classrooms. In those sessions, teachers and other stakeholders were able to share their concerns and recommendations for ESSA implementation.

Social Justice and Diversity During my Fellowship…

I had several opportunities to speak with Secretary King regarding our work and what we were hearing in the field. During the 2016 summer, our country was shaken by the killing of Philando Castile. Castile’s death was devastating to the students he served in the St. Paul, Minnesota school where he worked.  Secretary King’s visited the school to encourage families to work in their community to heal and talk to their children about how to cope with the loss. As an educator of color, many of the students I teach reminded me of a young Castile.  And as an advocate for their futures, I feel it is my responsibility to advocate for social justice, speak up against discrimination and support my students’ development as socially conscious citizens.

Once a Fellow Always a Fellow…

This was a saying I was excited to hear.  At the conclusion of my fellowship, I was excited to learn that it would never really end.  Sure, I wouldn’t have quarterly visits to Washington D. C. or weekly calls with my cohort, but I would still engage in discussions with the Department and alumni.  More importantly, I would continue to be bold and empower teachers to elevate their voices. I strongly suggest educators apply for the Fellowship and make your voice heard at the federal level.

Josalyn Tresvant McGhee currently serves as the Instructional Facilitator for Kate Bond Elementary School in Memphis, TN for Shelby County Schools and was a 2015-2016 Classroom Teaching Ambassador Fellow.

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Categories: Higher Education News

Districts Realize the Personalized Learning Vision, See its Future

December 20, 2016 - 7:00am

District superintendents across the country have taken on a range of bold approaches to improving students’ experiences in public education. Across these innovations, districts have embraced the notion that empowering students and their teachers is an effective way to improve student outcomes.

At a Nov. 15 convening, hosted by the White House Domestic Policy Council and the Office of Innovation and Improvement at the U.S. Department of Education (ED) , our nation’s leading district superintendents overwhelmingly expressed an optimistic sense of purpose. Motivated by their successes with personalized learning across schools in their districts, a ringing call to action for these leaders came out of this Washington summit: give more students and educators the opportunity to experience personalized learning.

The Obama administration’s investment in personalized learning resulted from “a vision and drive for improving how we teach and engage our learners” said Roberto Rodríguez, Deputy Assistant to the President for Education. “And we need more of that across the country.”

For superintendents, this means enhancing the efforts seeded by ED’s Race to the Top–District (RTT–D) program, connecting with other district leaders who are implementing personalized learning, and scaling up efforts across districts.

“We have transformed the learning for our students and our districts,” said Dena Cushenberry, superintendent of Metropolitan School District of Warren Township, Indiana.

Since implementing personalized learning, districts and schools have seen rising levels of student engagement, improved graduation and college enrollment rates, reduced discipline rates and greater teacher retention. All these outcomes have moved the needle towards providing an equitable, high-quality public education for students in schools nationwide. Nadya Chinoy Dabby, Assistant Deputy Secretary for Innovation and Improvement, said, ” Personalization presents a unique opportunity for schools to better understand—and meet—each student’s unique learning needs. Equity goes hand-in-hand with personalization.”

Superintendents identified three areas fundamental to scaling success in personalized learning: creating the right infrastructure, providing meaningful professional development and ensuring sustainability of the changes.

Investment in infrastructure can mean building in time and support for teachers and leaders to embrace the new approaches, and practicing a tenet of personalized learning: trust.

“The most innovative thing we’ve done is trust people,” said David Richards, superintendent of Fraser Public Schools, Michigan. “Give people the time, resources and opportunity to grow on their own. Everybody’s A-B is different on this journey.”

Kettle Moraine School District in Wisconsin, Superintendent Patricia Deklotz found that they “had to give teachers the opportunity to experience personalized learning” for themselves. This was an effective professional development model and cultivated buy-in from teachers.

“You can’t truly realize the personalized learning vision unless learners actually embrace those competencies and have the personal skills to navigate and engage their own learning,” said Thomas Rooney, superintendent of Lindsay Unified School District, California, an RTT–D grantee.

Superintendents are looking to maintain their progress. There are several relevant opportunities within the Every Student Succeeds Act.  Also, districts are tapping into their communities’ assets – like local businesses, service providers and teacher colleges – to best meet the needs of their students, families and teachers.

With a strong foundation laid, district and school leaders are positioned to sustain personalized learning and spread this approach across the nation.

“There are a lot of unknowns,” said Katrina Stevens, Deputy Director of the Office of Educational Technology at the U.S. Department of Education.  “But one thing that’s clear to me: This work is going to move forward because of the passion and dedication of local leaders.”

Want to learn more? Contact RTT-D Team Lead Andrea Browning, or visit the RTT-D website.

Andrea Browning is the Team Lead for the Race to the Top-District program in ED’s Office of Innovation and Improvement, which has invested $500 million in local personalized learning initiatives since 2012.

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Categories: Higher Education News

Summer 2017 Intern Application

December 15, 2016 - 1:15pm

Have you ever wondered about pursuing a federal career? Are you interested in public service? Would you like to gain valuable work experience and help move the needle on education issues in this country?

The Department of Education may have opportunities that match your interests – and we’re currently accepting applications for interns!

Our Department is a place where you can explore fields like education policy, education law, business and finance, research and analysis, intergovernmental relations and public affairs, or traditional and digital communications, all while learning about the role federal government plays in education.

Our interns also participate in professional development sessions and events outside of the office, such as lunches with ED and other government officials, movie nights, and tours of the Capitol, Supreme Court and other local sights.

One of the many advantages of interning at ED is our proximity to some of the most historic and celebrated sites in our nation’s capital, all accessible by walking or taking the Metro.

ED is accepting applications for Summer 2017 internships through March 15, 2017

If you are interested in interning during the upcoming term, there are three things you must send in order to be considered for an interview:

  1. A cover letter summarizing why you wish to work at ED and stating your previous experiences in the field of education, if any. Include which particular offices interest you. (But, keep in mind that – due to the volume of applications we receive – if we accept you as an intern we may not be able to place you in your first-choice office.)
  2. An updated resumé.
  3. A completed copy of the Intern Application.

Prospective interns should send these three documents in one email to StudentInterns@ed.gov with the subject line formatted as follows: Last Name, First Name: Summer Intern Application.

(Note: For candidates also interested in applying specifically to the Office of General Counsel, please see application requirements here.)

An internship at ED is one of the best ways students can learn about education policy and working in the civil service. It’s also a fantastic opportunity to develop crucial workplace skills that will help you in whatever career path you choose. And, it’s an opportunity to meet fellow students who share your passion for education, learning, and engagement.

Click here for more information or to get started on your application today.

De’Rell Bonner is a special assistant and youth liaison in the Office of Communications and Outreach at the U.S. Department of Education.



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Categories: Higher Education News

Students Leading the Way on Finding the Right Balance with Well-rounded Education

December 15, 2016 - 8:00am

Eight incredible student leaders joined in conversation with Secretary John King and Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy and Strategic Initiatives (DAS), Ary Amerikaner on November 16th, 2016. Students shared their experiences in well-rounded education programs in their own schools, and why these types of programs are important. Student input drove the conversation, as Secretary King and Deputy Assistant Secretary Amerikaner discussed how these students’ experience can help us here at ED support schools and communities as we work to implement ESSA. The session allowed students to discuss issues of funding and inadequate resources that typically bar school districts from implementing or expanding well-rounded education programs.  Most importantly, all were able to discuss concrete goals as they continue their work to provide a quality and rigorous educational experience for students across the country.

Bethany Forbes, Aszana Lopez-Bell, and Secretary King.

The student group ran the gamut from well-rounded education programs that included local committees on education and curriculum, expansion of arts and culture programming, and social justice initiatives for youth. Donovan Taveras from Brooklyn, NY addressed the inequality and prejudice present in his school community. These injustices interfered with the students’ academic experience and created a school environment not conducive to learning. Donovan felt compelled to speak out to right the wrongs of his school community. He campaigned for his school’s first Gay Straight Alliance organization to rid school districts of heavy policing and work toward the desegregation of all schools.

Like Donovan, all students in attendance had a unique story about how they have taken the initiative to voice their concerns about the popular opinions of their schools and surrounding communities. For many, these voices were found through their well-rounded education programs, as a result of empowering and supportive teacher mentors.

Bethany Forbes and Suni Lesu attend Vista High School in California. “Exploring passions allows students to apply what they are learning to the world around them,” the two explained. They’ve used this sentiment to discuss issues close to their hearts, especially standardized testing. Bethany and Suni remain unconvinced that standardized tests are indicators of a student’s success, as they don’t really assess creativity and innovation, two qualities the two students see as being integral to success in the modern world. The Student Voices Session provided an outlet for Bethany and Suni to voice their concerns to two powerful and influential leaders in the field of education. This in and of itself was empowering to Bethany and Suni, as well as the other student leaders at the table.

In a similar fashion, Aszana Lopez-Bell identified the gap in her social studies curriculum regarding cultural competence. Aszana asserted that topics of importance or relevance to modern society are largely ignored from the social studies curriculum. She initiated the Culture Club at the Baltimore School for the Arts that encourage students to be more aware of the world around them.

As student leaders, they continue to be peer mentors and resources for their classmates, as they truly feel it is their responsibility to shape the world they live in. These students’ achievements offer great input to national education leaders in their quest to provide for America’s students in the implementation of education policy.

This session was a part of the ongoing “Student Voices series at the Department through which students engage with senior staff members to help develop recommendations on current and future education programs and policies.

Emily Surman, American University, OCO intern and Samuel Ryan, Youth Liaison, OCO

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Categories: Higher Education News

Arts in Education Program Seeking Input for 2017 Competition

December 15, 2016 - 7:00am

The Arts in Education (AIE) Program supports nationwide efforts to improve schools in and through the arts as part of a well-rounded education for all students. AIE’s grants and technical assistance support a variety of organizations including school districts, non-profit organizations, and other entities through three grant categories: Arts in Education Model Development and Dissemination (AEMDD), Professional   Development for Arts Educators (PDAE), and Arts in Education National Program (AENP).

In Fiscal Year 2017, the AIE Program is preparing a competition for grants in accordance with its authorization under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), under Section 4642, Assistance for Arts Education, and Subpart 4—Academic Enrichment, which allows for awards to “promote arts education for students, including disadvantaged students and students who are children with disabilities through such activities as:

  • professional development for arts educators, teachers, and principals;
  • development and dissemination of accessible instructional materials and arts-based educational programming, including online resources, in multiple arts disciplines; and
  • community and national outreach activities that strengthen and expand partnerships among schools, local educational agencies, communities, or centers for the arts, including national centers for the arts.”

View the complete details on the Assistance for Arts Education section of ESSA.

The AIE Program is accepting comments from stakeholders interested in the new competition until Monday, January 9, 2017. Please send them by email to: AIEcompetition@ed.gov.

Learn more about the AIE program.

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Categories: Higher Education News